Enviro groups may
appeal East Fork
"I think itís inevitable that grazing
will be eliminated in that area, and I think weíd like to see it sooner rather
ó JON MARVEL, Executive Director,
Western Watersheds Project
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
One of the Westís leading public lands conservationists said this week his
group will appeal a recent U.S. Forest Service decision that establishes new
public lands grazing guidelines in the East Fork of the Salmon River valley on
the eastern slope of the White Cloud Mountains.
"As anyone can tell from reading the record of decision, a lot of political
pressure was brought to bear on (former Sawtooth National Recreation Area
ranger) Deb Cooper, and it has resulted in this unfortunate decision," said Jon
Marvel, executive director of Western Watersheds Project based in Hailey. "I
would anticipate that our group will appeal this decision."
The Boulder White Clouds Council, another nonprofit conservation group, plans
to join the appeal, said Lynne Stone, the groupís executive director.
Following the publishing of a record of decision in the Challis Messenger
newspaper on Oct. 9, a 45-day appeal period commenced.
In the meantime, "weíll be cataloguing the problems with this decision,"
If or when itís appealed, the issue will go before Intermountain Region
Forester Jack Troyer. Marvel said that if Troyer upholds Cooperís decision, the
conservation groups would probably take the issue to court.
"We believe the decision doesnít comply with the forest plan or the National
Forest Management Act or the Endangered Species Act," Marvel said.
The Upper and Lower East Fork Cattle and Horse Allotment Management Plans
final environmental study appears to reach a compromise position between
proposed curtailment of grazing in the area and the status quo, which was deemed
to be damaging to natural resources and recreation opportunities.
In March, the U.S. Forest Service released a draft environmental impact
statement that proposed to reduce the size and scope of the two grazing
allotments by roughly half.
The final decision, made by Cooper before her departure for Alaska two weeks
ago, will temporarily reduce livestock grazing in selected areas to allow the
land and flora to recuperate. When specified resource conditions are met,
livestock use will be allowed to resume at levels slightly higher than in the
last three years.
Additionally, the decision provides for construction of 15 miles of fencing,
at a cost Marvel estimates will be $150,000, in order to keep cattle out of
"Thatís just one example of the absurd nature of this decision," Marvel said.
The temporary closures, totaling 23,500 acres, include some areas specified
in the draft plan in March for permanent closures.
Areas retained for permanent closure total 27,620 acres.
In an interview two weeks ago, Cooper said senior Forest Service officials
and Idaho congressional representatives gave the East Fork environmental review
unprecedented attention. The final decision was not hers alone, she said.
There was a "heightened level of interest internal to the Forest Service on
this decision, and many people helped work on the decision," she said.
"Certainly the Idaho delegation is concerned about maintaining ranching within
the state of Idaho, and theyíre willing to express that concern to leaders in
"Iíve been criticized quite a bit about placing the value of the health of
natural resources beyond other values," she added.
For his part, Marvel said thereís nothing illegal about Idahoís congressional
representatives putting pressure on the Forest Service to procure a decision of
a particular nature.
"We expect it," he said. "What we donít expect is for our representatives to
waste our money in this absurd way. They should be asked why we should support
ranching at this type of cost."
Marvel also pointed out that the majority of the publicís input on the draft
environmental study was essentially ignored. Copies of comments Western
Watersheds obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request indicated that
130 of 219 written comments supported the termination of livestock grazing in
the East Fork through a phase-out. Another 17 supported ranching, and 65
supported curtailed grazing.
"So public comment is being overridden by political intervention," Marvel
said. "The public wants this land to be managed for wildlife and for recreation.
"I think itís inevitable that grazing will be eliminated in that area, and I
think weíd like to see it sooner rather than later."